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11 September 2019
Stawell district Landcare pioneer John Pye has won state recognition for his work towards protecting Wimmera’s fragile upper catchment.
Mr Pye, who has been contributing to Landcare and the Wimmera community for more than 35 years, won the prestigious Individual Landcarer Award at a 2019 Victorian Landcare Awards ceremony in Government House.
His award qualifies him as a nomination for an Australian award.
Mr Pye is a celebrated ‘educator’. He was a science teacher and later head of science at Stawell Secondary College from the early 1980s through to his retirement in 2012.
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Project Platypus Landcare facilitator Andrea Mitchell said as a leader in science and environmental education in the region, Mr Pye had a record of providing a significant and positive impact on young people.
“He is a pretty amazing man. The only thing he can’t do is stop,” she said.
In 2004, Mr Pye was a founding member of Stawell Urban Landcare Group and has been one of the stalwarts behind Project Platypus Landcare Network.
Project Platypus, established in 1994 to tackle conservation threats to the natural environment and regional communities, supports 11 Landcare groups across the upper Wimmera catchment
Mr Pye was also a member of the Stawell Country Fire Authority from 1990-2014 and was captain for four years.
A National Emergency Medal was the result of efforts and involvement in 2009 Victorian bushfires and he was Acting Divisional Commander during 2014 Grampians-Black Range fires.
In the past two years, Mr Pye’s volunteer commitment to Project Platypus has provided inspiration to Landcare groups, individuals and connections.
Funding changes left the network without a manager and a crisis of staff and volunteer morale.
In 2017 Mr Pye stepped in as volunteer project manager for the group – averaging 50 hours a week and contributing about $100,000 of in-kind labour.
He was determined to secure a sustainable financial position for the network, support staff and board members, improve stakeholder relationships and reinvigorate communications.
Due to his efforts a salaried project manager and new partnerships with Geoff and Helen Handbury Foundation and Ace Radio Broadcasters are now in place.
Mr Pye has also worked to maintain and enhance partnerships with Northern Grampians Shire and Ararat Rural City councils, Parks Victoria, Glenelg-Hopkins and Wimmera catchment management authorities, Central Victorian Biolinks, Australian Farmers Foundation, Trust for Nature, Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Grampians Community Health, district businesses and hundreds of volunteers.
He has also been influential in the development of a new strategic plan for the network and said it was unthinkable that Project Platypus might have folded.
“The project has achieved so much – 1.1-million trees planted, more than 20,000 hectares treated for invasive plants and animals and 1200 hectares of remnant vegetation protected,” he said.
“In the 2017 planting season we worked with schools, Landcare groups, farmers and nature lovers to prepare sites, get plants in the ground and protect them despite tough, dry conditions.
“More than 300 volunteers were involved including Local Learning and Employment Network participants – young people disengaged from full-time education or employment.
“Partnering with Project Platypus gave these young people the opportunity to give back to their community through volunteering.
“They learned that they were not only planting trees, but were also protecting insects, possums, sugar gliders and other natural wildlife. That’s a project worth fighting for.”
The entire September 11, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!